Southwick businesswoman on coping with anxiety attacks and tackling TED talks

Picture: Entirely Catherine Photography
Picture: Entirely Catherine Photography

A Southwick businesswoman explains to Charlotte Harding about inspiring others to reach their full potential.

Helen Packham went from a high flying career to a housewife not sure how to face the world to doing a talk in front of a room full of people.

After the birth of her daughter, Helen returned to her job doing leadership development and executive coaching for large and complex corporates but felt that she had lost her identity.

That coupled with low self-esteem and negative thoughts lead Helen to leave her job.

“I had Post-Natal Anxiety after the birth of my daughter but rather than deal with it, I pushed the emotions down and buried them,” she reveals.

“I wasn’t doing my job properly and was getting bad reviews. At a meeting with my boss in the canteen I just had a panic attack and walked out.

“I knew then I had to do something. So I quit my job and retrained to work with children.

“But the anxiety was still bad. I stayed close to home and even if I saw a friend in the street I couldn’t talk to them, it was too much for me.”

After three years things seemed to settle and then Helen had another baby.

“My life fell apart,” she says.

“My marriage broke down and I was there with my newborn and a three-year-old and these feelings were bubbling away and I knew I could either address it or ignore it. I decided to address it.

“I went to therapy and realised that my story could help other people.”

As a business coach, event speaker and speaker coach Helen now combines the career she had with her new experiences. She helps entrepreneurs and small business owners to realise their potential and show them that everything they need is already there.

“What I do is about helping them unlock their confidence and courage to tell their story,” she says.

“The positive ripple that occurs when someone does this is huge.

“It’s also incredibly confidence-boosting and challenges comfort zones, which all aid personal growth. Giving business owners and entrepreneurs the platform to do this is part of my mission to get people sharing their stories all over the world.”

With a new drive Helen created an image board of all the things she wanted to achieve one of which was to do a TED talk (TED is a non-profit organisation devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks).

”When I left my job the thought of talking in front of people made me feel physically sick,” reveals Helen.

“Eight months after creating my image board, I was at the Brighton Dome doing a talk in front of 1,500 people.

“I was so nervous before as I was second to last but I have some techniques to trick my mind into thinking it is more confident than it is.”

Helen believes that everyone has a ‘TED-worthy story inside them’.

“People always think ‘no one wants to know about me’ or ‘I’m not interesting’ but I tell them it isn’t about you, it is about your story and how that can help someone,” she enthuses.

“It is about coming out from behind the business and marketing your story.”

Alongside the larger talks and workshops, Helen is also running smaller sessions.

“I will take a group of five people, get them to write and practice their story film and give it to them to use on social media, people can email me for more details,” she says.

Although Helen says she can’t remember the last time she had a panic attack, anxiety is something that doesn’t go away but Helen is better equipped to deal with it.

“It is something I will always have,” she adds.

“I had panic attacks in my 20s but then it went away until I had my daughter.”

One cause of stress and anxiety for many parents is juggling work and home life.

Thankfully running her own business from home means she can drop her kids off at school and nursery.

“My job isn’t nine to five so I do have to be careful that I do switch off,” she says.

“But then it doesn’t feel like a job I really love what I do.”

For more information email hello@helenpackham.com or visit helenpackham.com

For more information about Mind visit, www.mind.org.uk

Pictures: Entirely Catherine Photography

What is anxiety?

The charity Mind says “anxiety is what we feel when we are worried, tense or afraid – particularly about things that are about to happen, or which we think could happen in the future. Anxiety is a natural human response when we perceive that we are under threat. It can be experienced through our thoughts, feelings and physical sensations.

“Most people feel anxious at times. It’s particularly common to experience some anxiety while coping with stressful events or changes, especially if they could have a big impact on your life.

“Anxiety can become a mental health problem if it impacts on your ability to live your life as fully as you want to.”